Sunday, July 1, 2018

{Being The Change: Week 1} #cyberPD


It's the 8th Annual 
#cyberPD Summer Event!

Join in our #cyberPD Google+ Community to participate!
We want YOU to join in the conversations!

This July we are reading and learning together around the new title from Sara Ahmed 

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My Thoughts and Reflections

"... we will give ourselves permission to create learning conditions where kids can ask the question they want to ask, muddle through how to say the things they are thinking, and have tough conversations. We will be proactive in this pursuit. Truthfully, we will not have all the answers. No one does." 
(Ahmed, p.xxii)

An Introduction to Social Comprehension and Strategies to Prepare You for the Work Ahead

  • This introduction was packed with so much helpful information!
  • This is the explanation of social comprehension and beginning thinking that I needed to ground myself in the hard work to come in our classrooms and homes.
  • Sara reminded me throughout this chapter that this work will NOT be easy, but it is worth it. And in the state of our country and world today, this work is essential. Previously, I may have turned the other way, ignored the big issues, skirted around hot topics. I cannot do that to our children and our future. I feel the responsibility to do more and be more. We must model caring, kindness, compassion and listening. Our students also need opportunities to practice as well.
"Avoiding these conversations now -- at a point in our students' lives when they are the most able to consider new perspectives -- will yield a generational ignorance we can't afford for the future. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is a luxury of the privileged and  a barrier to the unnoticed and underserved." 
(Ahmed, p.xxv)
  • I have to admit, Sara's words have slapped me around a bit, knocking me out of my comfort zone in my privileged comfy life. I needed this shake up right now to learn and understand what my students are living with, struggling with, and worried about day-to-day. And this means we need to be celebrating more successes knowing the challenges they are able to overcome.
  • I need to dig deep into this work first and that is why I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing community where I KNOW I will grow and change and grow in my understanding through our conversations.
  • Yep. Kids first. It's not about me.
  • Love this idea and I want to try it! Make a list of 10 things about each child as a person -- "the pieces of themselves they trust you with" -- and how they would define themselves. Relationships are essential to learning. Find out who they are and what matters to them. 
  • Also, consider the hard work:
    • Silence is a struggle, but necessary. Decenter your normal. I'm not the expert. I won't have all the answers and that's ok. The hard work takes time. 
  • This hard work is HEART work. And it matters: "At first I thought ... and now I think ..." -- this tool will be useful to document our change in thinking.
Chapter 1: Exploring Our Identities

"We can help students shine a light on who they are: their hopes and dreams, talents, family histories, how they identify culturally, the languages they speak, how they learn best, the story of their names, what they can teach us." 
(Ahmed, p.2)

  • I found myself nodding in agreement with Sara's beliefs: The kids are our curriculum. Relationships first. High expectations. Great hopes. Respect who they are.
  • I love allowing students the opportunity to reflect on who they really are today -- not who they want to be or who they "think" they are -- but raw, open, honest reflection. You can't hide behind that ... The power is when we start this process with younger students and build up to those middle school and high school days. Wow -- to know who you truly are every year as you change and grow and learn. This is powerful.

  • Affirming our identities: Identity Webs -- This reminds me a heart map for personal writing, but this takes those stories to sharing and connecting with others.
  • Love that Sara recommends starting with a read aloud -- and provides lots of title suggestions! The mentor text is the window, but then we look into the mirror to create our own identity webs.
  • Sara also provides powerful, clear language when beginning identity conversations with students and how to ask questions respectfully when sharing.
  • I sketched my identity web right inside my book. Later, I went back and added a few more details. One day I want to recreate in my notebook:

  • Placing ourselves in the World: Stories of Our Names -- Names are so important. We always start with our names when learning letters and doing shared writing. Names identify who we are, but Sara reminds us there is more to the story with our names. Kids need to learn the story of their names. I would guess the majority of my students have little knowledge or understanding about their name, but here is where we can open that door -- to learn more, talk with parents, find out the story behind their names.
    • As for me and my name, all I can remember is that my mom and dad really liked my name. There was no family history and meaning behind my name. Thankfully, I can still verify my understanding of my name with my mom and dad. One morning, I sent my mom a text and asked her to share my name story. I'm also thankful participates in the weekly Slice of Life (#sol18) and she wrote a slice about our family names
  • Journeying into Our Family Histories: "Where I'm From" Poems -- Love the idea behind writing these poems, but this caused me the most stress! I had a happy childhood, but memories are hard for me to retrieve ... unless, a story is retold or I see an old photo or even a smell brings me back. I dove into this hard work and tried writing my own "Where I'm From" poems ... from yesterday and today. These rough drafts are captured in my writing notebook. For now.
" kids grow, they are constantly evolving a new sense of self.  Stepping back 
or beginning the year with a study of  them to feel valued 
and visible in the classroom." (Ahmed, p.29)

Chapter 2: Listening with Love

  • First of all, I love this title. We all need to listen with more love more often these days.
  • Second, I am just as guilt as Sara. On page 31, she describes how she "pre-planned" the outcomes of creating a class agreement. I think we all have done this ... set expectations of what we want included. Students need a voice from day one and not the pre-programmed, auto-pilot version.
  • Committing to social comprehension instruction means ...
    • understanding there are more questions than answers
    • the work is messy and there are levels of uncertainty
    • we must "practice the critical components of communication--how to listen, pause, speak, ask questions, and reflect" (p.32)
  • Active listening reminds me of ...
    • Steven Covey: "Listen to understand. Not to respond."
    • James 1:19: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
  • I love the active listening lesson -- that will be necessary to repeat over and over throughout the year! And the anchor charts will help capture this thinking and growth.
  • In addition, I appreciate the language Sara provides -- helpful for students and teachers!
"Our goal is to make the process of active listening automatic in their thinking and writing, and to treat listening to someone else as an act of love." (Ahmed, p.32)

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As always, thank you for taking the time to read and sharing your voice!

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Join in the #cyberPD conversations this month!
  • Grab your copy of Being the Change and start reading!
  • Make #cyberPD work for you and your schedule this summer! It's a no-stress, no worries, join when you can kind of book study!  
  • Reflect and write:  a blog post or share your thoughts in the Google Community.
  • Participate in the conversations. This is where the magic of #cyberPD happens!  
                  #cyberPD 2018: Being the Change Padlet of Resources for all to add and share!

Questions, comments, or concerns about #cyberPD?  Contact Cathy Mere or Michelle Nero


Read.  Reflect.  Share.  Respond to others.  Then repeat.

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  1. I love everything I read about exploring identities in chapter 1! As a literacy coach I plan to share these ideas with teachers as we work to build relationships and community in our classrooms. I am thinking about how identity webs can be used throughout the year in language arts as part of character analysis, point of view, and the study of theme - just to name a few!
    The lessons and recommended stories/poems in Chapter 1 are also a great fit for a focus on SEL lessons.
    Personally, my greatest takeaways as a teacher and a human being in this world are to Be OK with silence and to Enter With Humility - as educators we often think we have to be the expert and we don't. Let us all strive to be life long longers who learn from others - especially those who are most different from us.
    Michelle Gillikin

  2. There is a lot to digest in the pages of this book! I definitely agree that it's taking me out of my comfort zone. I think I've sort of had the thinking that the work that Sara describes is more for secondary students, but now I'm starting to see that this work is valuable even in the primary/elementary grades.

  3. I love the exercises Sara shares to help students explore their identities. I don't think I did enough of that when I was in the classroom. It is so important for kids to recognize and honor all the parts of themselves.

  4. Mona Goodman

    Two things stand out for me . The first is the identity webs which are such a wonderful way to start the new school year. It develops a classroom community by creating an environment where students are comfortable to share. It also pushes kids to think more deeply about themselved( not just the things they like to do) I also thought creating character identity webs based on a read aloud was a terrific idea

    The second idea that was so important was the focus on active listening and wys to practice and reinforce this throughout the school year. With students focus on technology, there has a decrease in their ability/desire to listen actively to pets and adults in the room

  5. I really enjoyed all of your thoughts and thinking connections to other things you've read or experienced. I wanted to make an identity web myself but never thought about doing it right in my book. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Michelle,
    So much to think about here. This quote you shared hit me hard when I read it, Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is a luxury of the privileged and a barrier to the unnoticed and underserved." I was at a social justice writing retreat a few weeks ago and one of the teachers said, “Not everyone has the choice of silence (looking the other way).” In other words, our students and their families are living with this every day. We have an obligation as you said to “to better and be better.”

  7. I wrote a "Where I'm From" poem a long time ago, but I don't know if I can even find it now. I'm going to do this one again, and hopefully I can find the old one to compare. I feel like I have a deep sense of where I am from, so your perspective, not feeling like you have many memories to draw on, is interesting to me. So many of my memories are tied to specific people and if I think about those people, and how they influenced my life, I figure out where (who?) I'm from. I love that this book starts by asking people to figure out themselves, asking teachers to do the hard work of figuring out who they are, before we dive in and "assign" students to do the same.

    1. I've asked my middle school students to write the "Where I'm From" poem and it was really good. Like Sara suggested, we took some time to understand the original poem and a lot of talking time to help students get beyond the superficial. I hope you re-write your poem and share it with us!

  8. I really struggled with the first chapter. I know this work is important, and I should do it before I ask students to reveal themselves. In the last few years, I've lost both my parents, changed jobs, moved to a new state, and just lost my dog. So much of who I knew I was has been stripped away. Even the seemingly simple question, "Where are you from?" makes me pause and struggle because I still think I'm a Wisconsinite, but I'm in Kansas now. I wonder how many students may be hesitant to commit to drawing the web. I also think about my brother's children, who were just recently adopted, and how they are still figuring out who they are in this new family, while hanging on to what they knew. Just something to think about as we ask students to make themselves vulnerable.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.